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The Rudy Project Defenders are an impressive pair of glasses, with the photochromic lens especially impressive in changeable conditions. They provide great protection, but the price will put some off.
One of the challenges I always find during the spring/early summer is that when you start off on a ride it can be dark and dank, but by the time you're halfway round it's bright sunshine. You can take off arm warmers and remove gloves, but your glasses are another story as you are left with two options – ride with your eyes streaming or get blinded.
Photochromic lenses have become increasingly popular in recent years, but can suffer by being slow to change. With the Rudy Project Defenders, changes happen rapidly enough that you don't instantly feel plunged into darkness, but equally don't leave you feeling like you're staring directly at the sun.
They go from essentially non-prescription clear lenses to dark black, and adjust to every light between, meaning you can always maintain a clear view of what's on the road in front of you. They also have impressive clarity and strong peripheral vision, despite being full frame glasses.
In addition to allowing you to see effectively in all conditions, the glasses also offer strong impact protection. I know this from a stone that flicked up and left no mark on the lens (unfortunately it did on my forehead). Given that 30 per cent of the reason for wearing glasses is this kind of protection, it's a sign of a good pair of glasses. For those curious about the other 70 per cent: in the Hill household at least, 30 per cent is UV protection and 40 per cent is to look cool.
Rudy Project makes a version of the Defender frame in graphene, for £259, which it claims is 'lighter than carbon but stiffer than diamond'. The glasses on test are the grilamid version not graphene, but are certainly robust despite the relatively thin frame.
They sit on the head well thanks to grippy arms and buffers on the nose, meaning that even on particularly sweaty rides I found they stayed exactly where they should. The glasses also provide effective defence against misting thanks to the Powerflow Ventilation System, which consists of 12 vents that sit within the frame and two that sit between the frame and the lens. The only time I ever found them steaming up was when I was stopped at traffic lights, and even then they cleared very quickly once I got going again.
In additional to protection and comfort the glasses are also fairly lightweight, coming in on the road.cc Scales of Truth at 34g. This is slightly heavier than some at a similar price, such as the 100% Speedcraft SL glasses, which are 32g and £13 cheaper. The Smith Attack Sunglasses are 4g lighter but £3 more expensive. However, when you're talking in single figures you wouldn't really notice much of a difference.
The one thing there's no getting around is the price: at £191.99 rrp they're expensive. However, there is no doubt that these these are top-of-the-line cycling glasses, up there with the best I have used.
Overall I really liked these glasses. I have used several photochromic glasses in the past and these are easily the best. Many will baulk at the price, but there is no doubt about their quality.
Very impressive photochromic glasses, quick to change and offering strong protection
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rudy Project Defender ImpactX Photochromic 2 Black
Size tested: One Size
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
A pair of high-quality performance glasses designed to be used in all conditions whilst also offering strong impact protection.
Rudy Project says: 'Inspired from more than 30 years of Rudy Project heritage, the Defender blends an innate racing attitude with the most advanced eyewear technology to provide unparalleled comfort to athletes and weekend warriors. Adjustable nosepad and temple-tips, ultra-deep field of vision, protective soft Safety Bumpers and extraordinary Power Flow ventilation System make the Defender extremely comfortable and safe.'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
From Rudy Project:
Total Comfort Fit
Very well made; when you first see the frame its slenderness gives the impression that it could be flimsy, but it's stiff and resilient.
Does exactly what you want a pair of glasses to do – offering protection from light and anything thrown up from the road.
Very durable. I don't know how well they would fare after being run over, but I would put my money on them surviving most other abuse.
Ever so slightly heavier than some of their closest rivals, but when it's down to single digits it's nothing too major.
Adjustable nose buffers and grippy arms mean they stay in place well and don't chafe.
They're expensive, but they are high quality; on a par with others.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well, they kept my eyes free from harm whether it came from the sun or debris being thrown up.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The lens is particularly impressive, offering not only great photochromic performance, but also strong protection and visual clarity.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
There is no getting around the price, which is going to put some people off.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The 100% Speedcraft SL glasses are 2g lighter and £13 cheaper. The Smith Attack Sunglasses are 4g lighter but £3 more expensive. However, when you're talking about single figure grams you wouldn't really notice much of a difference.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes (if they're in a sale).
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
An impressive pair of glasses that offer protection from all the elements and can be used regardless of the conditions. You're paying for quality, but it is a lot of money.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cinelli Gazzetta My best bike is: Cannondale Supersix Evo
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
George spends his days helping companies deal with their cycling commuting challenges with his company Cycling for Work. He has been writing for Road.cc since 2014.
When he is not writing about cycling, he is either out on his bike cursing not living in the countryside or boring anybody who will listen about the latest pro peloton/cycling tech/cycling infrastructure projects.